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The appellation, named after the commune of the same name, with around 1,700 hectares of vines, forms an island in the large Graves area in southern Bordeaux. It consists of the five communes of Bommes, Fargues-de-Langon, Preignac and Sauternes, and with the right to its own appellation Barsac with 600 hectares of it. All Barsac wines may also use the name Sauternes or Sauternes-Barsac, but this does not apply vice versa. Here, mainly noble sweet white wines have been produced from botrytised grapes for centuries. The later US president Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who was envoy in Paris from 1785 to 1789 and visited many French wine-growing regions during this time, named Sauternes the best white wine in the country after Champagne and Hermitage. His ranking was also used as one of the criteria for the 1855 Sauternes classification (see below).

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